The Line

I’m drawing a line in the sand and taking a side. And I want you to join me.

Over 2 months ago, a divided battle raged within our nation’s legislative chambers. While debate on the Senate floor is typically distorted by hyperbolic rhetoric that covers every tiny nuance of foreign policy, economic ideology, and military defense, the issue at hand seemed to be quite simple in comparison:

“Do we care about women?”

It perplexed me to see our nation’s legislative representatives come within a few votes of answering that question with a resounding “No.”

As Republicans and Democrats laboriously haggled over dollars and cents while slashing government programs in an attempt to reduce the ever-increasing national debt, there seemed to be a swelling tide of bipartisan craftsmanship. Somehow, the two sides had agreed to cut around $38 billion dollars in government spending. But one provision (or “rider”) to a freshly-inked budget bill was preventing its passage. This rider, sponsored by several Republic legislators and passed in the House, included complete severance of government funding to Planned Parenthood.

The GOP maintained that Planned Parenthood funding needed to be cut because it was an unnecessary form of government spending. While it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around the absurdity of labeling low-cost and accessible reproductive health services as “unnecessary,” the arguments in support of this rider get worse.

The most nebulous argument for cutting government funding to Planned Parenthood targeted the organization’s abortion services. Some lawmakers overshot hyperbole and simply lied on the Senate floor in a shameless attempt to invoke sociocultural-religious ideologies of the American public. The most brilliantly disgusting example of this fiction came from Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who claimed that abortion is “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.”

In reality, abortion encompasses 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services. The bulk of the organization’s activities and funding are centered around cancer screening and prevention, STI testing and treatment, and education/contraception.

Furthermore, the GOP’s argument that Planned Parenthood’s abortion services place a financial strain on the federal checkbook is null when one considers the Hyde Amendment, a 1976 rider that prohibits the use of government funds for abortions. In other words, all abortions performed at Planned Parenthood are funded by the private sector and patient fees. The organization’s abortion services do not cost the government a dime.

The obvious question is then, “Why are American lawmakers intent on killing Planned Parenthood?”

Let’s explore.

The FBI defines a hate crime as “a criminal offense committed against person, property, or society, which is motivated in whole or in part by the offender’s bias against a race, religion disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.”

Under this definition, it is a hate crime if a woman is raped because she is black.

It is a hate crime if a woman is raped because she is Jewish and dating a Christian man.

It is a hate crime if a woman is raped because she is homosexual.

However, it is not a hate crime if a woman is raped because she is a woman. Instead, the authorities consider this a “sex crime.” According to the FBI, the motivation of rape is different when a protected class is not involved–i.e., the motivation is sex, not hate. But at its disgusting, hellish core, rape is not about sex. It’s about power–and it’s about hatred.

Yet for some reason, gender is the only class that remains unprotected under hate crime statutes.


…at this point, I have posed two questions that demand answering.

1) Why are American lawmakers intent on killing Planned Parenthood?


2) Why is gender not included in the protected classes of hate crime legislation?

The answer to both of these questions, although simple and startling, is the same:

Our culture hates women.

This is where you must cross the line in the sand and join me. As current and future nursing professionals, we have a tendency to avoid heavy and layered political and social issues. So many of my faculty and classmates are passionate and brilliant–but too often I see them gingerly tiptoe around these types of issues. Sentences start with “I don’t want to be political, but…” and are followed by a restrained blurb of social and political neutrality.

I understand why this approach is the norm–most of us are genuinely nice people, and we don’t want to offend our peers. This is especially true when an issue like abortion is involved. However, it is possible to respect the sociocultural/religious ideologies of certain groups while simultaneously championing patients’ civil rights.

For example: My value system includes unconditional support of a woman’s right to make her own choices about pregnancy and her body. I respect that others have values that conflict with my own. However, when this issue is distorted and used as an argument point in a legislative decision that could result in the elimination of cancer screening and prevention, STI treatment and testing, sex education, and sexual abuse counseling for millions of American girls and women who will otherwise go without these essential services, my obligation to my patients’ health and well-being must take precedent.

Our militant culture has declared a war on women, and at this point, timid advocacy is not enough. To truly protect and promote the health and wellness of our patients, we need to fight. Don your armor. Fend off the hyperbole, twisted distractions, and lies. Counter with an endless fury of logic, empathy, and compassion.

Take the step and dig your heels in the sand. Let’s hold the line.

Posted in Nathan Guerette | Leave a comment

You can do it!

As a student in my final semester here at VUSN I have started to reflect back on my time here.  For me, it has been a great challenge and overwhelming at times as a full time student, but I never felt like I wouldn’t succeed.  This in large part is due to the incredible faculty support I have felt all along my journey.  I may lose sight of how great the faculty is here when I am up all night and have three papers due in a week–but honestly, those late nights and long weeks are more likely a product of bad planning on my part.

As a pre-specialty student I felt very confused about what specialty to choose.  I had already chosen one as all pre-specialty students do, but I got to a point where I felt like I needed to explore other options.  Program directors, faculty, and Dean Norman all took their time to help me through the process and attempt to figure out what would be the best place for me.  Through this second year I feel confident that I am in the right specialty for me, maximizing my talents and skills to best serve patients.  Without this faculty guidance I would not have felt as confident entering my second year.

I know there are always several mentors available to help me through whatever it is.  If I ever struggled in a class, on a test, or with a particular concept, professors were always available to talk through it and offer suggestions to improve.  In the end, I will have completed the program with honors and can honestly say that I am amazed at the amount of information I have learned.

Most recently, I needed an additional clinical site in order to get the hours in I needed.  Angela Sharp helped to find me a second site in just a few days and that is not an easy task!  I cannot tell each of the faculty and staff that have helped me how much I appreciate everything they have done for me.  They have always made me feel important, like they care about each of us.  I have never felt “lost in the crowd.”

If you feel like you are struggling, or may not have the support and guidance it takes to get through the program—talk to someone!  I know is sounds cheesy but I honestly feel like the faculty and staff here enjoy helping students succeed and will do their best to get you where you want to go–you just have to ask.  You can do it!


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Do you want to be a nurse?

I met with an undergraduate student in the Pre-Nursing society this week. We had a nice discussion about nursing. I got to tell her my nursing history; since I have been a nurse for a long time, it took awhile! Possibly a topic for another blog.

In light of that conversation, I thought I would describe some of the information and experience that I think are necessary for someone thinking about nursing as a career – either as an RN or an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN). This advice is based on 40+ years as a nurse/nurse practitioner, but also as a former FNP faculty member who reviewed applicant files for many years.

1. You have to want to be a nurse. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? You have to be interested in health care, helping others, coaching, learning, and, oh yes, body fluids. You must deal with mean people (patients and other nurses), and others who think that what you do is GROSS. You have to be able to talk to patients and families, to be empathetic to their health/illness, lifestyle, etc; and you have to be able to want to help them, even if you don’t like them.
Even as an APN, I still think as a nurse. I can take a history, perform a physical exam, and tease out a diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan … but I always think first as a nurse: where is this pt coming from, where do they need to go to get better/care for themselves, what influence does their family, job, education have on what I think they should do?
2. Nursing is a profession (“requiring extensive education or specialized training”), a vocation, a career – it’s not just a job that you can ditch when you become interested in something else. You should be committed to being a nurse for most of your working life.
3. If at all possible, you should observe, volunteer or work in the health care field so you know what you are getting into! This is pretty much YOUR responsibility to arrange, so use all your networks (friends, neighbors, relatives) to pull it off. The more you know about and are comfortable with the health care system, the easier it will be for you to concentrate on learning how to care for patients instead of getting used to talking with patients, staff, the health care system.
4. You have to be flexible! Medicine and health changes everyday – new drugs, new treatments, new guidelines. There is no way that you will learn everything you need to know to care for patients from lectures; you have to be willing to investigate on your own, put in the time with patients in clinical and in practice and learn from them also. Things that you do for patients or prescribe for patients today can be changed tomorrow; a behavior today turns into a “syndrome” tomorrow, so don’t become too rigid. As an APN, I am always learning – from journals, media, and most of all, from patients themselves.
5. Be realistic. Yes, you may want to save the world, work in missions with poor countries, etc; but first you have to get experience in your field before you can translate it into another culture and health care system. Become a good nurse, a great nurse practitioner, and THEN take that experience to others.
The other part of being realistic is learning that you cannot change the world today. You can help patients take a small step that will lead to another step, and then a bigger one. Diabetics don’t reduce their blood sugar overnight; it comes a milligram at a time, as they learn about diabetes, why elevated blood sugar is bad, how to check their blood sugar, what their meds do, etc. You don’t change or learn things overnight, neither will patients. An FNP student once said “Small miracles must be celebrated”, and yes, those small steps will make your day!

Is this too much information? I hope I didn’t discourage anyone. Nursing is a GREAT profession, I have never been unhappy with my decision to become a nurse. Nursing has allowed me to work part time, full time, in lots of different areas, and challenged me intellectually. I am proud to tell anyone that I am a nurse!

Posted in Charlotte Covington | Leave a comment

End of 246 Rotation 4

I am hanging up my white scrubs for now. They were not an impediment to my nursing education after all. I am very thankful for all the people at St. Thomas Hospital, especially the patients who allowed me to briefly enter their lives and learn from their illness. A very special shout out to our professor, Erica Stone, for her constructive teaching and always knowing when you might be backed into a corner, sometimes literally by the effects of C. diff!

Posted in Guest Authors, Stephanie Rickerman | Leave a comment

Opened doors

If you are familiar with VUSN then you are well aware of its incredible nursing program and high academic standing among the nations graduate nursing programs.  While it is inarguable that VUSN provides students with an incredible classroom and clinical nursing education, the school actually offers much more than that.

If you choose to do the bridge program, as I did, then the first few months of the program present a unique challenge.  Not only are you a full time student but you are also changing careers, learning a completely different discipline in a concentrated format.  This minimizes the amount of “free time” to get involved, but eventually as I fell into a routine I began to look into other opportunities.

I began with the Shade Tree Clinic.  Vanderbilt Medical students work incredibly hard to provide free health care to the underserved in the community.  Shade Tree’s efforts include weekly clinic hours as well as mobile events providing education and vaccination opportunities around Nashville.  The medical students call on nurses at Vanderbilt to administer the vaccinations and help in patient education.  On average it is one day a weekend for 3-4 hours.  You can volunteer as few or as many days as you want.  It is incredibly rewarding to reach so many people in such a short period of time, providing care they would not otherwise receive, putting into practice the skills and ideals VUSN has instilled in its students.  Any student can get involved as long as he or she is an RN in the state of TN.  For more information about Shade Tree click here.

For me VUSN has not only opened the door for local service but global service as well.  In April of 2010 I was fortunate enough to be able to utilize my Vanderbilt nursing education in Haiti.  With a group called Mobile Medical Disaster Relief I spent a week in Haiti running mobile clinics for those affected by the earthquake with several other Vanderbilt nurses including two NP students and a Vanderbilt ER doctor.  There is no way to put my experience into words but I look forward to returning to Haiti in July, this time with an advanced practice education.  There are many opportunities like this around the world, and VUSN has the resources to get connected where you want to go.

Each year there is a Meharry Vanderbilt Alliance Interdisciplinary Clinical Case Competition.  Three students are chosen from each medical school, the nursing school, Meharry dental, Vanderbilt law, Meharry public health, Vanderbilt dietetics intern program, UT social work and UT pharmacy.  Once divided up there are three teams with a student representing each school.  Over the following month the teams work through a clinical case using all the interdisciplinary resources available in order to provide the patient with best possible biopsychosocial care.  This year I got the honor of participating on the winning team!  It was extra work and some late nights but in the end the experience made me a better practitioner, helping me better understand the roles of my peers and how they can assist in providing a patient more comprehensive care.  For more information on MVA and the ICCC click here.

The most recent opportunity I have had is to be inducted into Sigma Theta Tau International, the nursing honors society.  STTI is not just something fancy to put on your resume—it is a worldwide network of nurses who are passionate about what they do and passionate about connecting with others in the field.  There are annual conferences, job postings, and ways to reach out to other STTI members to make connections when traveling or looking for a job in a new place.  You can visit the Vanderbilt Chapter site here or the main page here.

All of these great opportunities and I haven’t even mentioned this blog!  This is just another way to get involved at VUSN and I am so excited to be able to share my amazing experiences at Vandy with you.  If you are a prospective student I encourage you to give Vanderbilt serious consideration.  It is an incredible school, with amazing opportunities, in a great city with plenty to do!  If you are a current student that hasn’t gotten involved yet, I encourage you to do so.  Becoming more involved at VUSN has made my experience much richer and incredibly rewarding.  If you are an alum, I encourage you to share some of the doors VUSN has opened for you, I know there are many!

If you are interested in any of these opportunities feel free to reach out to me for more info!


Posted in Heather Whaley | Leave a comment

The final push!

Okay Vanderbilt School of Nursing Alumni the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon is almost here!  We look forward to seeing you at the race!

If you are like me you are a mixture of excited and apprehensive.  Every year I’ve done this race I vow to do better in those final two weeks before the race and for the past few years I have slacked off on training enough that the day of the race I feel way less than confident.  I am planning on doing things a little different this year. Last Saturday we had a wonderful training run which I dubbed “The Confidence Run” as it was 10 miles of hills, hills and hills.  We got through it with ease and the weather was perfect which was a tremendous added bonus.

We are planning for our group’s carbohydrate loading dinner the night before the race and planning these final workouts in the days ahead.  I remember often one of my favorite quotes which is from Nike corporate:

“There is no finish line”

So when we cross that line on 04/30, we are not done…this is just a blip on the long path of exercise in each of our lives so we’ll keep our motivation strong and our health up to par.

take care~


Posted in Whitney Simmons Wormer | Leave a comment

Let’s share!


Hello! I feel privileged for the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with you. I emphasize the word share here because I think that learning is best facilitated in a forum where ideas are dynamically exchanged rather than uninterruptedly lectured from a single voice. You’ll notice a link below each post that reads “Leave a comment.” Utilize it! Let’s use this opportunity to share our vast diversity of history, expertise, and perspective to further our learning–because knowledge are cairns that mark the trail on the continual, rewarding, life-long path to wellness.

Stay tuned for a post that will explore the recent nixing of the Planned Parenthood budget bill rider.

In Learning,


Posted in Nathan Guerette | Leave a comment

Country Music Marathon Training

Hey everyone!

We are meeting at Bongo Java on Belmont Blvd this weekend at 9 on Saturday for the group run/walk.
I won’t be there for the run/walk but will be running Sunday morning instead.  I hope you all have had a nice week and we’ll hopefully have some beautiful weather to play in this weekend!


Posted in Whitney Simmons Wormer | Leave a comment

From FNP faculty to FNP clinical practice

In the fall of 2010, I left my academic position at VUSN and moved into practice.  Some of you who will read this are former FNP students and may be surprised.  Here are my reasons:

  1.  After 17 years on the FNP faculty, it was time for a change.  I believe in listening to the little voice in your head that says “time to go”.  It spoke to me in the early 90s when I left the Emergency Department environment after 18 years.  Basically it says:  “You have done all you can here, changed all you can, said everything that needed to be said; what’s next?” 
  2. I always wanted to go back into practice, and I was lucky enough to be able to start part time in 2009 with a new group within the Practice area of VUSN.  VUSN has partnered with Metro Nashville Public Schools to open Family Health Centers for teachers, staff and their families.  This worked out ideally for me, but I was VERY nervous about practicing again (former students may laugh, but it had been awhile since I managed chronic illnesses).  Our patients all have insurance and most are interested in their health.  Quite a departure from previous practice sites at the Domestic Violence Shelter and Vine Hill; but I felt as though I had “done my time” in underserved areas.  I increased my days in practice until I was able to work full time in practice.
  3. I wanted a less stressful job as I approached retirement.  Preparing lectures, being creative about courses, placing students in clinical sites had become more difficult and less rewarding to me.  Also, as the Doctor of Nursing Practice and PhD programs became the center of VUSN education, I didn’t have the required degree, or the inclination or energy to work on one – since my goal was less stress!

So, there you are.  Am I happy?  You betcha!  I work 3 10-hour days a week, a 4 hour Saturday clinic about every other month, and work with great people, both professional and patients.  I have found out that teachers are much like nurses: they work hard, take work home, miss meals, and don’t have time to go to the bathroom, just like us!  I have learned about the culture of teachers and public education from the inside out; more than I learned listening to my son-the-teacher (10+ years in Metro). 

In future posts, I’d like to discuss some of the things I think are important to current students and new grads about transition to practice.  We talked about it throughout the FNP program, but now I have a different prospective.  I’d also like to discuss health care programs and current situations, but don’t know if I can restrain myself, much less sound coherent!  Here’s hoping it’ll be interesting and timely.

Posted in Charlotte Covington | 3 Comments

Country Music Marathon Training!

Happy to be blogging and nice to see this new page up!

I’ll be blogging from time to time about our Vanderbilt School of Nursing Alumni team training runs for the Country Music Marathon which will be on Saturday, April 29th!

So this is week 13 and we are gearing up for some long weekend runs in the Sylvan Park area Saturday morning.  Cross your fingers that we are not rained out!

We hope to see more people come out and join us as the weather gets warmer over the next few weeks!  We have a great group of Vanderbilt Alumni and friends of Alumni.  We are hitting the pavement for better health every Saturday morning for the fourth year in a row.

The local rage in exercise seems to be ZUMBA! Many of us in my running group of friends are doing this now and I must say after my 6th class or so I think my humiliation is at bay and I’m totally loving every moment of the program.  Many of the rec centers in town offer this at great rates. I’ve been going to the one on Nolensville/Thompson Lane.  The best description I’ve found for this is that you feel like you are in a huge music video.  Terrific fun and….a great cross trainer for your running body.

I’m thinking it would be great fun to have a Vanderbilt Nursing Alumni cycling team too! Think on this for a bit and if you’re interested, send me a message!

Happy running to you~


Posted in Whitney Simmons Wormer | 6 Comments